With drowning as a serious public issue, 23-year-old Filipino student Ira Hisanan created men’s swimwear with a built-in floatation mechanism.
Dubbed as Walrus, the design innovation took inspiration from the eponymous marine animal whose air sacs along its neck serve as life preservers for sleeping in oceans.
“More than 3,000 people die annually in the Philippines due to drowning,” Hisanan noted. “In 2018, eight out of 10 victims were men.”
“When I was brainstorming for my thesis, a family story resurfaced — the tale of how my uncle saved my dad from narrowly drowning just before I was born,” she recalled. “This also triggered memories of my own near-drowning experiences.”
During her research, the young trailblazer noted that males between the ages of 15 to 49 often dwell in aquatic hobbies, join alcohol-induced activities, and engage in risk-taking behavior.
She understood that the preventive method is to encourage the use of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs). But she considered how it is also viewed as bulky, uncomfortable and most of all, costly.
With this in mind, the Industrial Design undergrad from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) investigated the problem through the lens of leisure and recreation.
“This perspective sparked an idea: What if we could integrate life-saving features into the clothes for water activities?” she beamed. “Imagine people enjoying and suddenly finding themselves in danger. If their outfit had built-in rescue tools, lives could be saved.”
She focused on providing buoyancy around the lower extremities of the wearer. The finished output is an unobtrusive floatation device seamlessly designed into a swim trunk. With a pull of a tab, an inflatable bladder is activated and can be used to grab onto or worn over the neck.
The finished product comes in various sizes and nature-inspired color variations. The inflatable bladder is likewise detachable for easy wash and maintenance. It is complete with accessories for increased visibility and adjustment.
“Walrus helps the public enjoy water-based activities to the fullest while giving them accessible buoyance during emergencies,” Hisanan explained.
“Even those who do not usually bother with such safety gear might find it a game-changer,” she added. “My goal is to blend safety with fun, giving rise to innovative solutions that could make a real difference when least expected.”
Her capstone project Walrus nabbed The Best Thesis Award, following the criteria of the World Design Organization, a globally recognized non-governmental network that champions the power of industrial design in enhancing the economic, social, cultural, and environmental quality of life.